Super Cities №48 — Silicon Valley is Soft

Brendan Hart

One Big Thing

According to a top investor, Silicon Valley would be wise to follow China’s lead

As the Chinese technology companies push ever harder outside the mainland, the habits of western companies will start to seem antique.


One of its best-known investors thinks Silicon Valley is soft.

Moritz gets two things right and many things wrong in this essay.

The Good

To start, Moritz is right about the importance of work ethic: “top managers show up for work at about 8am and frequently don’t leave until 10pm. Most of them will do this six days a week — and there are plenty of examples of people who do this for seven. Engineers have slightly different habits: they will appear about 10am and leave at midnight.”

While the hours may vary, the best workers in my experience have radical work ethics — measured by both overall time and outcomes — that is fueled by passion. We should celebrate this commitment.

Indeed, in a work-smarter-not-harder world, the people I most admire work their asses off. They put in the time.

Rule: If Michael Jordan can get up to train at 5am, so can you.

Moritz makes an important point about frugality: “You don’t see $700 office chairs or large flat panel computer screens at most of the leading technology companies. Instead, the furniture tends to be spartan and everyone works on laptops.”

If you’re working with a startup because you want a fancy juice bar or next-generation ergonomic chair, you’re doing a whole lot wrong and should consider another job. Unfortunately, too many startups and “incubators” around the world have adopted this silly practice (ping pong tables!). It’s the exact opposite of discipline.

To do great work, you don’t need a chef, fancy office, or plush chairs. You need relentless determination and clearly-defined goals.

Rule: To keep costs down, Amazon famously used doors as tables. Be like Amazon.

The Bad

Mortiz should have stopped at work ethic and frugality. He didn’t.

He went over the cliff by taking issue with paternity leave and work-life balance. He goes nuclear by declaring Silicon Valley “a society that is becoming unhinged.”

With typical gust, people took to the Twitter street.

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